Rollators Increase Walking Distance and Reduce Breathlessness

Systematic Review of Rollators In Those With COPD

What Is A Rollator?  Walkers and rollators are equipment used to help people with mobility issues. A walker is usually built with aluminum supports and does not have wheels. The person has to lift the walker as he/she moves forward. In contrast, a rollator has wheels that does not require lifting. The front wheels swivel to make turning in small spaces easy. It typically is
There are many types of rollators

3-wheel rollator

equipped with a padded seat and brakes. It is faster than a walker because of the wheels. The rollator comes with either 3 or 4 wheels. The 3-wheel device is smaller and easier to maneuver than one with 4 wheels. Study: Dr. A.L. Lee and colleagues from West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, reviewed studies evaluating the effects of a rollator in those with COPD. Two reviewers assessed all published studies on the effects of rollator use compared to no aid in individuals with COPD. The article was published on-line in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention (November 8, 2017).
4-wheel rollator

4-wheel rollator with padded seat and hand brakes

Results: A total of seven studies were identified that involved 126 subjects. Use of a rollator increased the distance walked in 6-minutes by an average of 43 feet compared with walking without an aid and also lowered the shortness of breath rating at the end of the 6-minute walk by an average of one unit. However, longer term use did not impact exercise capacity or the person’s quality of life. Conclusions: The authors concluded that when used in short-term, rollators improved walking distance with a reduction in breathing difficulty. My Comments: A physical therapist typically evaluates individuals for use of a walker or rollator. Three standard tests are generally used to assess someone’s ability to perform basic physical activities: timed up-and-go; five times sit to stand; and assessment of gait and balance. The timed up-and-go test is:  When I say “Go,” I want you to: 1. Stand up from the chair. 2. Walk to the line (10 feet away) on the floor at your normal pace. 3. Turn. 4. Walk back to the chair at your normal pace. 5. Sit down again.                                                                                                   The time to do this test is recorded with a stop watch. If you have difficulty getting around due to weakness, recent falls, or struggle with balance, you should ask your health care professional about a rollator.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.